Friday, February 23, 2018

Japan Culture Series 16: Nemawashi

    In the Japanese group culture a unique way of decision making predominates which is distinct from Western style decision making. This process is known as Nemawashi, or laying the groundwork in advance. When it comes to making important decisions in group settings Japanese people often try to spend a lot of time gathering support from each individual person behind the scenes before proposing the new idea to everyone at a meeting. By spending time gauging each individual response as well as trying to convince each person of the new ideas merit, a lot of 'groundwork' is laid down to ensure that the idea will be accepted once proposed. This is very similar to the American political process in Congress that is used to gather support for a bill before an actual vote comes onto the floor of the house.

    Once an idea is proposed to the group it will have likely spent a lot of time being pitched to each individual to ensure its success. Therefore, once an idea reaches group proposal level it is often accepted. In Japan the leader of the group accepting the idea is more of a formality than a decision with actual weight. In the western world new ideas are often proposed with little groundwork laid to give room for more back and forth discussions with the leader having the ultimate decision making capacity on his shoulders. In Japan open conflict is avoided at all costs, so an open discussion of proposals without Nemawashi is seen in a negative light.

    In many ways the Nemawashi system of decision making ensures that once an idea is enacted that everyone will be in agreement with it. However, on the negative side this does not allow for much change to happen as everything tends to be kept in relative comfort as opposed to trying any radical changes. Perhaps for this reason changes are difficult to come by in this ancient culture! How does this relate to Christianity? Ideally, spirit-filled Christians would work together in agreement to progress at an ideal pace in ministry. This would seem to work well with spirit-filled leadership in a church. However, on the negative side, a complacent church could stall any meaningful spiritual changes preferring rather to keep its comfort. Given the slow growth of Japanese Christianity a real effort of prayer must be made in order to see changes made in this country.

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